Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Does Today's Busy Scheduling Affect Reading with Children?

It's so hard today to find time to do anything but run from one activity to another. The days of snuggling together for long, slow, dreamy moments together is long gone. And yet the literacy demands of our children today are even greater than they were just a few years ago. What's a parent to do?

Make it a priority. Carve out time as part of your "get ready for bed" routine. If your children are too old for "read together time" (you'd be surprised how long they will cling to it if your choice of books is engaging enough), make sure they have at least 15-20 minutes of down time before they go to sleep. Don't forget that reading on the Internet is still reading for those who like to "surf" late at night. Texting with friends is OK but doesn't really add to the academic vocabulary environment we want them to spend some time in.

Know your child's passion. I say this all the time but it is so true. Match the perfect book to your child's interests (soccer, airplanes, female role models, rock and roll, whatever). Help your child find reading materials that feed that passion. I remember that my son was fascinated with gorillas when he was young. I think we read every book about those creatures we could find.

When you can't read for 15-20 minutes, think about reading your environment (road signs, maps, menus, billboards). You'll be amazed at the conversations that come out of those readings. Ask them to read aloud to you an engaging book while you are driving to the baseball field, the doctor's office or on errands.

Don't forget to include at least one book (carefully selected to match your child) as a gift for holidays and birthdays.

It takes thousands of hours of practice for us to get good at anything. We must give our children a chance to get good at reading because, as Dr. Marilyn Adams says, "in our society, their life depends upon it." There is no better gift you can give your child than the time you spend reading together.